Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 10: Things Are Going About As Well As You Would Expect

Angolmois Episode 10

Jinzaburo wastes no time in dealing with the betrayal from last week, we get a weird kind of romantic maybe sequence from the Princess, and then we have yet more Mongols moving in. Angolmois isn’t slowing down and it was great that they reminded us that everything that has happened has taken place over 5 days so far.

Angolmois Episode 10 Teruhi

On the surface this episode felt very piecemeal and yet because of the short time frame and the fact that each event that happens is clearly linked to what has happened before, it never felt overly disjointed. The problem is mostly that this show remains an interesting walk through the events on the island (and I have no idea about the accuracy or credibility of this story nor do I have much desire to look it up) but it isn’t making me really care all that much about the characters themselves. The characters remain just a vehicle for moving events along and each one is pretty forgettable in their own way.

Angolmois Episode 10 - Jinzaburo

That doesn’t stop there being some very cool moments in this story. The fight between Shiraishi  and Jinzaburo is so short and yet there’s a fair brutal efficiency. I like that they don’t feel the need to drag out the duel just for the sake of spectacle. This fight is impressive not because of the ongoing trading of blows or any particularly flashy move. It’s impressive because both characters are experts at what they do and they put their best into it from the first blow (no pulling out a super secret move ten hours into the fight). And that kind of plays into what works about this show. For the most part is is relatively believable even if potentially some of the individual feats are a little exaggerated for entertainment’s sake (and I’m not huge on stories needing to be grounded in reality, but with the way this one has been set up as more of a historical kind of thing, it actually works in the show’s best interest not to get too crazy).

However, I do need to look at the omens in this episode as we realise that the Magistrate is perfectly happy to lie to his own people if need be. He was also perfectly happy to stay with no plan and die so I’m not sure if he’s really such a great leader after all unless his people are equally fatalistic and don’t much care about maximising survival. What makes this slightly more tragic is that this is perhaps the best display of characterisation we’ve had since Teruhi got really angry at the Mongols for killing her whole family.

Angolmois Episode 10 - The Exiles

Finally, the episode comes to a close with the Mongols approaching the castle from land and sea and the Japanese are surrounded. Just to be sure we realise that the situation is now officially hopeless we flash to the guy who promised reinforcements essentially being told by his father that, nope, we aren’t sending any. This is responded to by the guy with one of the worse voice performances this show has so far delivered and the animation didn’t do a much better job of making me feel his pain.

So episode 10 is a mixed bag of fairly interesting and competent moments and some moments that remind me why this show keeps just straddling the line between the anime I’m really interested in this season and the anime I’m just kind of watching.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 9: Battle at the Castle

Angolmois Episode 9

Battle of the Mountain Castle is an episode where the title explains exactly what you are going to get. And as Angolmois moves back into fighting with a clear battle objective and clear sides, some of the strengths of the series come into play making for a fairly enjoyable episode.

Angolmois Episode 9

While the overall characterisation has not gotten any better in this series, we’re at a point where at least the characters we’re supposed to at least recognise in some form have been established so there’s little to complain about as we see them prepare for and enter the battle. Jinzaborou’s ability to make accurate maps of areas once again comes into play which I thought was a nice touch and the other characters, including the Princess and the pirate guy had moments that at least reminded you of who they were.

Angolmois Episode 9

The battle itself was one where both sides were using strategies rather than just rush the wall and so there were some conversations and observations inbetween the rounds of running, flying arrows and dying screams. I did appreciate that they didn’t try to make the Mongols out to be too monstrous (though they weren’t sympathetic either) and in honesty the Japanese side igniting a squad of the Mongols could be seen as pretty horrific if they weren’t so incredibly outnumbered in this battle.

Angolmois Episode 9

All and all, this episode was a fun and engaging watch and it brought out mostly the best that this show has had on offer though at the same time it hasn’t done much to correct some of the issues in the mid-season that might make it overall difficult to recommend this to all but the most avid watcher of anime set in historical settings. Still, I had fun this week and I look forward to seeing what happens next week.

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Libra of Nil Admirari Series Review: Pretty Boys and Books

I can’t help but wonder if maybe this story would be more fun if it were interactive and allowed you to follow along with one guy’s story rather than chopping and changing to ensure each guy got screen time, but no chance of development.

Review:

Libra of Nil Admirari

During the spring 2018 season I chopped and changed a lot with my watch list. There were a lot of shows that potentially could have been interesting, or I wasn’t sure if they would stick, so I ended up watching quite a few shows without reviewing and then as I dropped other shows that didn’t work out I would end up picking them back up. Libra of Nil Admirari was one of those series. And really, the first episode defines the entire viewing experience:

  • It is reasonably unremarkable but has some potentially interesting ideas.
  • Characters are introduced but they don’t really seem to have any overly defined traits.
  • Small moments of danger are inserted to created drama but it never feels like things are actually going to get dangerous.

Libra of Nil Admirari Episode 1

Basically I ended up feeling luke-warm about this whole series. It didn’t help that mid-way through the run the subtitles changed from Ruze to Kuze (or maybe I just paid more attention) and I realised that most of the guys running around in the show I never knew the name of and was left looking it up at the ends of episodes if I actually wanted to talk about that character.

While that might make it seem like a fairly terrible viewing experience, it really wasn’t. The show isn’t bad at any point. However it fails to be interesting or memorable for the most part. The one thing it has going for it are the cursed tomes, and pretty much any episode that dealt directly with a cursed book had at least one moment that really grabbed my attention, but even this story-line ultimately didn’t go very far. While we do get to see who is behind the distribution of the cursed books and they even resolve the story well enough, it’s a pretty unsatisfying story when you simply look at that plot line without the clutter of all the issues the pretty boys bring into the story.

Libra of Nil Admirari Episode 5

And each of the boys does have a story to share. It might have even been an interesting story if they’d been given four or five episodes to develop it but instead we shift the focus to the guy of the week, learn a little about him, and then Kuze either gets herself in trouble and is rescued by him and somehow that results in him feeling better about whatever, or Kuze actually talks to them and makes them realise something about themselves, but either way it is usually resolved before I’ve had time to get invested. Some of the boys were lucky to have their story carry over more than one episode and Hisui was one of the few that actually had quite a reasonable build up. The tragedy of that was they then just kind of wrapped his story up because we were nearing the climax and it didn’t feel like he really had the screen time he needed to make his story actually work.

Libra of Nil Admirari - Episode 6

So what this mostly leaves us with is an anime that actually has some reasonable ideas, is pleasant enough, has a cast that work and individually are each potentially interesting but underused, and ultimately a fairly forgettable plot. The one thing this anime definitely has in its favour is a very upbeat OP and some interesting visuals during the ED, though I’m not entirely sure if either of these is enough to offset the mediocrity of what lies between those two things.

Libra of Nil Admirari Episode 12

As for a recommendation, I really can’t. If you happen to really love historical settings or reverse harems, then perhaps you will enjoy this more than I did, but mostly I think what was good about this show just served to highlight all the opportunities it missed. By the end I was mostly just wanting it over because I kept thinking about how it could have and should have been much better. So not inherently broken but neither is it recommendable.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 8: The Price of Betrayal

Angolmois Episode 8

While this episode was an improvement on last week, and even thought to remind viewers that there are in fact reinforcements coming (I’d almost forgotten that they only had to hold out for a certain time assuming the reinforcements arrived), there’s still a definite feeling that things are just getting drawn out now.

Angolmois Episode 8

Jinzaburo spends a lot of this episode reminding us that despite his political savvy being somewhat lacking, he is a fairly good leader. After pointing out that the castle is essentially a death trap and seemingly resolving to leave, he takes on a challenge by some of the guards and in the process understands why they can’t or won’t leave. Even after beating them, he simply requests their names and then we get on with everyone sitting down to a campfire.

Angolmois Episode 8 - Jinzaburo

Where this falls a little short, is the fact that one of the exiles is betraying them. From the audience perspective, given we’re shown the moment he makes the choice, his dealing with the Mongols, and then returning, there is little room for doubt. And while Jinzaburo isn’t in on this knowledge, it seems like he should probably pay more attention to these exiles he is leading as they come and go particularly when they are in as fragile position as they are. Of course, placing all the blame on him would be foolish when you have to wonder why when they arrived the gate was guarded and yet this exile apparently left, had a meeting with the Mongol forces, and returned without anyone on the walls wondering just what he was up to.

Angolmois Episode 8

There was an attempt at injecting that time pressure that we felt so keenly in the first few episodes, but here is falls short. It has been too long since they reminded us the relief might be coming and too long since it has felt like there was any kind of end game for it to now be an affective plot device. If this had been featured more often as a constant gnawing pressure about whether they would survive long enough to be saved, then it would have significantly more impact.

Angolmois Episode 8 - The Mongols

While this show hasn’t ended yet, and I’m actually expecting something reasonably decent from the final confrontation, I really don’t think I’ll end up recommending this anime. As interesting as it ended up being, there’s just too many places where it has failed to hold itself up in the middle and the weight of them are starting to really drag on the overall experience.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 7: Safety?

Angolmois remains perhaps one of the ugliest anime I’ve actually sat through, and the story really has come screeching to a halt in the mid-section, and yet there’s something about the story that continues to compel. Still, there’s plenty this week that makes me wonder why I’m still watching.

Angolmois Episode 7

This week we see our characters receive some gourd from the Emperor before running to an inlet where they find some Mongols chasing a boat load of women. Turns out its a trap and the third force we met before is hard at work luring in and killing Mongols. They aren’t thrilled to take in Teruhi and the refugees but the Emperor has ordered it and so on to the castle.

Angolmois Episode 7 - Teruhi

On arriving at the castle, Jinzaburo takes a quick look around, listens to the kid who has been playing on the walls, and determines that its pretty much a death trap. Of course the anime uses this opportunity to hit us over the head with the fact that he has no political tact once again (one of his few character traits outside of being awesome fighter/leader guy) and he royally annoys all the hot girls who are heavily armed. That might seem dismissive, but honestly this sequence is handled poorly and the characterisation is weak at best. With so little happening in this episode, and quite a bit of time devoted to the two kids bickering, the one development that seems meaningful needed quite a bit more thought in its execution.

It isn’t all bad news with them running into other refugees and clearly there are some foul plans afoot which are sure to help things get interesting again real soon.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 6: Division

Angolmois Episode 6

With the remainders of the army and the exiles momentarily unified in their desperation to survive, it is now the divisions in the Mongol army that are being exploited. That said, even with the infighting, the Japanese are really outnumbered here.

Mongol6a

I’m kind of annoyed at the way Teruhi is being presented so far in this series. She just keeps changing tone and reacting to situations and to be honest I don’t really get her as a character. We met her when she was playing the role of being haughty and cruel (which just seemed like a stupid approach with the exiles in the first place) and since then she’s been the stubborn tom-boy, the damsel in distress, the grieving family member, the tortured leader type, and so on. From one scene to the next you don’t know what face she’ll be wearing or how she’ll react and while fair enough her life is getting turned upside down, six episodes in her character remains fairly problematic in terms of actually saying whether or not I have a clue what her role in this story is.

Far easier to nail down is the role of the adopted son who last week joined forces Jinzaburou and the exiles as he tried to figure out a reason why he was even fighting and the writing was on the wall then for what his fate as a character would be. Points for the show not dragging it out and giving it enough weight as an event without belabouring the point. However, other than Teruhi and Jinaburou, none of the characters really have much, well, character. They are either stereotypes or more or less still blank slates with little to distinguish them from the other cast members. And that’s perhaps where Angolmois is starting to lose me now that the initial draw of the conflict is starting to wear a bit thin as we continue to see the Mongols chasing the Japanese across the island (there’s only so far you can pus htaht concept without liking the characters before it gets a bit old).

Mongol6c

Still, with developments towards the end of this episode bringing in some new characters, there’s some potential for a different direction. And despite m complaints about the cast, this is still a generally enjoyable show, outside of the ugly filter.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 5: A Reason To Fight

Angolmois Episode 5

This episode of Angolmois is working hard to establish the desperate situation the citizens of the island and Jinzaburou have found themselves in while also attempting to fill in some backstory that I guess was meant to make me like him more as a character.

Angolmois Episode 5 - Teruhi

I’ll get the comment about the ugliness of the filter out of the way nice and quick and then I can focus on what this episode does well, and some of the other things that aren’t so great. For example, I really enjoyed the way the conflict is going with the survivors of both the actual army and the exiles fleeing with the survivors from the capital, hiding from scouts, and working to slow down the army. The battle on the cliff was quite well handled (though we’ll discuss the animation in a second). It also gave us more of a chance to see Jinzaburou as a leader of not just the exiles but the islanders as they realise he’s pretty much the only one left who can take charge.

Teruhi, after her minor freak out and morale boosting arrow storm (slight exaggeration), pretty much fades into the background this week. Instead we get a flash back to Jinzaburou prior to being exiled and I guess we get a message about his character through his approach to playing shogi, but it is pretty heavy handed in the way it is dropped in there. Not to mention, this show kind of sets everyone who isn’t Jinzaburou to be a complete ass, and even Jinzaburou isn’t exactly coming out of this looking amazing given he has some pretty rough edge to him.

Angolmois Episode 5 -  Jinzaburou's past

But the real casualty this week was the animation. While in the first couple of episodes conflicts were nicely animated, we then had a few that moved the majority of the action off camera, and now we have some heavy reliance on panning over still images. It doesn’t bode well for the production over all and a story that is this caught up in these massive conflicts between armies probably needs to actually be able to handle some consistency in the delivery of those scenes.

Despite that complaint, overall Angolmois remains a fairly solid story this season and it is one of the few titles I’m genuinely enjoying rather than watching and hoping for improvement. There’s definitely room for improvement but even with the issues the anime has, it is still doing a pretty good job of delivering entertainment.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 4: War is Ugly

Part of me wonders if I will comment on how ugly this show is every episode, and the other part of me knows already I will. It is the one thing keeping me from full immersion in what has otherwise been a fairly gripping opening.

Mongol4e

Literally my only complaint this week is that filter. It is so distractingly hideous to look at. And the night time sequence only made it harder to actually look at and not see the filter. I kind of get the look they are going for but I really hate it. So it is probably a good sign for everything else in this show that despite how visually unappealing I’m finding it I have no intention of dropping it.

Mongol4a
In contrast to how ugly the show is, this opening shot from the OP is actually kind of gorgeous and I really would love this as a print.

Right, so let’s put aside complaints and praise for visuals (not something I usually spend a lot of time commenting on). This week we have the night raid on the Mongol camp, we introduce some new villains, we save some more villagers, and then our group of exiles and village recruits take a fast march back across the mountains to the capital (though that doesn’t go so well as the post-credit sequence will reveal, but I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself).

It isn’t particularly remarkable or different, and really characterisation isn’t deep here, and yet there was no point during this episode when I wasn’t interested. Individually these characters are pretty ordinary and so far undeveloped, but as a cast they are working, and the setting and story are compelling enough that they aren’t forcing in anything unnecessary and just letting events carry the plot forward. While this might not appeal to everyone, so far I’ve been surprised by how enjoyable this has been given I’m not much for historical settings.

Mongol4d

No doubt though that they aren’t pulling their punches when it comes to some of the atrocities that such a conflict will give rise to. Death is abundant amongst the unnamed cast and I’m not particularly convinced that all of our exiles have plot armour just yet. They also kind of go out of their way to show dead bodies, blood splatter, and all the general unpleasantness that a battlefield will give rise to. Again, this isn’t going to work for everyone, but it kind of adds to the overall feel of the piece given it isn’t a work of total fantasy and so you kind of have to consider these scenes where characters hack and slash their ways through the bodies of others in the context that these could have been real people.

Though the show isn’t above shattering its own illusions with a character catching an arrow in his teeth.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 3: Ugly Filter Aside, This Is Pretty Compelling

The characters are blunt and the conflict is real; so far Angolmois seems to be doing a decent job of distinguishing itself from the nice-guy harem-protagonist anime out this season.

Mongol3a

Wow, that filter is ugly. There’s no other way to describe it. In one sequence the characters looked like their flesh was made out of the cave rocks the texture on their skin was that prominent and weird. Throw in a knack for choosing colours that look like various versions of split-pea soup and this anime is just visually hideous. It is a good thing it isn’t resting on being pretty and with the gritty story unfolding here I have to admit despite being ugly the visuals are actually fairly suitable.

Mongol3e

It is difficult to get behind any of these characters though. The exiles are pretty rough characters and while they are good at their various trades (killing people) they haven’t given me any reason to really get on side. These aren’t freedom fighters or idealists. They are criminals and so far have come across as fairly self-centred in their view of the world. It seems they are mostly seeking a thrill in joining this fight rather than caring whether they are helping anyone.

Mongol3c

That said, you can’t get behind the actual army either because they are universally stupid. They flee and they buy into faulty logic from either their own leaders or the exiles. So far there is very little to really respect about any of these characters and the majority seem to exist simply to die.

Of course, the enemy is the Mongol army which we’ve seen exactly nothing of other than various grunts getting killed. They have no voice or personality.

While it might seem like I’m running this show down, I’m really not. I’m interested in this conflict and these characters, but there’s absolutely nothing pretty about this show and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it likes it.

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Black Butler Season 1 Series Review: One Hell of A Good Time

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in May 2016 and can be found here.

blackbutler ending

I’ve been a big fan of Black Butler since I first saw the anime many years ago – though most of the time I try to pretend season 2 does not exist and for the duration of this review I’m going to. I’ve also reviewed Book of Circus and Book of Murder in case you are interested. Irina and I also debated the merits, or lack of them, of season 2 in a collaboration that you should definitely check out if you missed it.

We’ll get this out of the way first. Yes, there are some uncomfortable moments for some people in Black Butler. The relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is at times just a few steps over the line of what some people find acceptable and while nothing is overt on screen the dialogue and insinuation is not exactly subtle. There’s plenty more explicit out there but this will still rub a few people the wrong way. If that’s you, thanks for visiting the blog, please read one of my other reviews.

750-1

Still with me? Great. Moving on.

Alright, any history buffs in the room that care whether or not 19th Century London is portrayed accurately in terms of dress, mannerisms, status, etc, you should probably also step out.

For those who are left, this is why you should watch Black Butler.

Ciel is brilliant as a character. No, he doesn’t really develop as a character. He comes into this series fully formed. Everything truly terrible has already happened to him and he is utterly resolved. Not on revenge, as he states several times in the series, but on ensuring those who humiliated him are in turn humiliated because that is what he wants. He’s under no illusion. This isn’t a noble quest and he knows he has made a deal with a demon. For 95% of the series he is unwavering. It’s kind of refreshing to have a protagonist not trying to find themselves.

Instead, Ciel is fighting to remain who he has decided to be. In the face of everything that comes his way throughout the series he is determined not to leave his path. This allows for there to be conflict and self-reflection but means he isn’t really developing and there is no over-arching character arc here. But it is a joy to watch.

Some might disagree with that last statement. In honesty, Ciel’s a snobbish, childish, jerk who is like the kid who didn’t get picked to play so now he’s going to steal all the equipment so no one else can either. That doesn’t mean he isn’t appealing as a character though. You just wouldn’t invite him around for dinner any time soon.

And then there is Sebastian.

He is polished and cool and refined and he steals every scene he is in. Perhaps he is a boring character because he is so perfect but I always enjoyed watching how he would meet Ciel’s demands and I loved the play between the two as they found new ways to torment each other within the bounds of their contract.


Black Butler Artworks 1
Black Butler Artworks 1


Mostly the series is a kind-of-mystery of the week. The mysteries aren’t particularly compelling and the solutions are usually pretty basic or rely heavily on the supernatural to explain, so don’t get too invested in that aspect of the show, it won’t hold up. However, the overall story of Ciel seeking those who killed his family and working under the Queen to draw his enemies to him, is quite compelling even as it makes you question the logic of those actions.

Angela is also a rich and interesting character, even though she is sadistic and a little bit crazed. Though she isn’t in all that much of the series she is definitely a highlight and her appearances signal some big movements in the plot.

96bd49216dd03c25681f19bc4df2a130

Lastly, we have probably the most annoying aspect of the show. The other servants in the Phantomhive mansion. While they are useful(?) to the plot in the final episodes, their presence mostly serves as an irritant and delivers some of the poorer comedy found in the show.

214d4b2eeb12a5907458066d1da2c5c5

I recommend Black Butler for a watch, but I am aware it isn’t for everyone. Let me know your thoughts on this series.


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Karandi James

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